To be entirely honest, I found that out because I kept cutting sections about brainstorming out of other posts. Once I had collected a bunch of rejected paragraphs, I decided I could shmush them all together into a brand spanking new post. And here we are - the reject pile!!! Isn't that exciting??
So what I realized is that brainstorming takes a very specific shape for me. Yes, sometimes I do write out ideas, and explore them, via a sort of stream-of-consciousness conversation with myself. But more often than not, I just write.
I know this seems self-evident, since, y'know, I'm a writer, but that's how I brainstorm best: by writing. Not by freewriting, although that's the catalyst, but by actually writing out scenes.
When I'm brainstorming, ideas often occur to me as fragments of prose or dialogue. So, when I'm developing each, I write out a brief scene-let that's built around that fragment. I then end up with lots of little bits of writing, which I call "freewriting". Right now, I have at least two or two bits for each of my ideas of lives for my two souls. Then once I have a fragment of a scene written out, I can see how the idea works, and where my characters want to take it. More often than not, these fragments don't end up in the finished manuscript, but sometimes they do. The first chapter of Cloudland came directly from one of my freewrites.
So, how does this actually work?
Well, I know I want one of the stories in this new book to involve a love affair between a Greek god and a mortal. When I was first brainstorming that idea, I was trying to work out a bunch of different things: which god, what kind of affair, how they meet, who they are, etc. I settled on Apollo as the god, and then I had a flash of an idea, a fragment of prose, really, about how they might first meet. It appeared in my brain as "The first time Apollo saw him... The second time Apollo saw him..." and so on, with each "time" being a new paragraph briefly detailing each sighting, following a rising arc of action that begins with the first sighting and ends with Apollo actually meeting this person. I then thought of the myth that Apollo, as the god of the sun, rides a chariot that pulls the sun across the sky, and decided to use that: the sightings happen when Apollo is in his chariot, making the sun rise.
(Yes, I know that it was actually Helios who pulled the sun, and that it was only later that this became associated with Apollo, but this is all part of the glorious freedom of artistic license.)
So, I wrote that flash of an idea out. I have no idea if this will end up in the finished book, but it helped me figure out some things about Apollo and this unnamed to-be lover of his - for example, that at the time of the first sighting too many of Apollo's lovers have suddenly died or been transformed (thank you, Greek mythology), and, heartbroken, he's committed himself to celibacy; that this new to-be lover has been determined to seduce Apollo since childhood, and may actually have orchestrated all of these sightings, setting up a nice little conflict very early on; and so on.
Since I swore to myself that I would never, EVER share any of these brainstorming bits in this blog, because they consist of unfinished, unedited, weird writing that is for my eyes only, I naturally decided to post a little bit of this example here today! Hooray for self-humiliation!!
Remember, this is TOTALLY UNFINISHED. It might really, really suck. Here's that first paragraph, anyway:
The first time Apollo saw him, it was in a curving glance of golden light: his limbs bending up the long grass, each fine thread of muscle and sinew coiling with life; his hair black and wind-blown in the first drawn breaths of dawn. Swift and easy he raced up the shadowed slope, chasing after the flickering white tails of his herd. The god stilled his hand on the chariot and the horses reared back in plumes of flame, and the sun settled its burning arms low on the rim of the world, and so the day began with wildfire and black smoke instead of the rushing stream of rose Apollo had intended.And that, my friends, is what I call brainstorming.